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Views on morality and individuals versus group

  1. Feb 28, 2008 #1
    first i can see this easily going in to the realm of religion so before you post about religion read the rules of the forum for religion. (https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=93343)

    i want to read views from other people on morality.

    my view:
    1) basic human emotion is to improve the life of there self.
    2) we group together to improve our own life.
    3) from there the group operates as one though the individuals are for there own improvements the improvement of the group helps improve themselves.
    4) if a member of the group tries to get ahead by putting the well being of the group at risk then the group punishes the individual.
    5) the idea of being punished keeps us inline.

    note: this only works within groups

    group vs. group:
    1) two groups have a smiler interest that can't be shared (or wont).

    2a) groups fight to obtain control of the interest.
    3a) confect remains unless second group is removed or converted.
    2b) groups merge and share resources.
    note: this is vary basic

    looking at human history and how i precise people is how i came to this conclusion. but i love to be wrong and i want to read other view and reply to comments about mine.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2008 #2
    There's sort of two different things you might be talking about:
    • The behavior of morality, why do humans of all cultures decide upon moral norms
    • The personal obligation or compulsion of morality, what is the motivation for an individual to act in a fashion that he or she believes is moral
    In my experience many peoples' thinking on this subject confuses those two things. Some people when asked why they do not murder / gratuitously kill others, for example, will cite something like evolutionary altruism, which seems kind of like what you're saying there. But evolutionary altruism is a reason why other people wouldn't murder - not a moral reason to not commit murder yourself.

    So I think that reasoning involving what benefits a group of people isn't a valid basis for morality, because the group behavior of people doesn't create any obligation on one's own part. To put it another way, that's simply a guide for how to act optimally when one's intention is to benefit the group; it's not an obligation or other motivation to benefit the group in the first place.
  4. Feb 29, 2008 #3
    OP: False. If you are on a deserted island, you still need to figure out what you ought to do just to survive even though no other people are around. Groups are irrelevant from a moral perspective.

    No, it is the reason that you do not murder as well. Evolution has hardwired certain behaviors into your brain and if your brain functions you cannot make yourself murder. It is not that you actively motivate why you are not currently killing someone throughout your day, you just don't think about it.
  5. Feb 29, 2008 #4


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    ?? What does "what you ought to do just to survive" if you are on a deserted island have to do with morality?
  6. Feb 29, 2008 #5
    I guess that depends on what morality is seen as. If morality is the study of appropriate or right behavior in situations, or the study of causality as it applies to human actions, or the method we use to fulfill values in situations using facts, the desert island scenario holds for individualist morality, as oppose to collectivist morality. Am I missing something here?
  7. Feb 29, 2008 #6
    There was recently a great article in the NY Times Magazine about morality by Steven Pinker, that you may be interested in. Here's a link to it--


    He was basically trying to figure out whether there is such a thing as a universal morality, ie, something that applies to all human beings regardless of culture. He identified five major areas of concern that all rules of human morality are governed by. These are harm, fairness, authority, community and purity. However, each culture puts a different weight or importance on each of these concerns. The different weight ascribed to each area determines what is right and wrong in that particular culture. For example, in Western cultures, more weight is put onto the concern of fairness, but in Islamic culture, more weight is put upon authority. Therefore (to go back to an issue that was in the news some time ago), naming a teddy bear "Muhammad" is considered immoral in Islamic society, because it violates the authority of the Prophet. But in Western culture, executing someone for naming a teddy bear "Muhammad" is considered immoral because it violates our sense of fairness, that the punishment is not equal to the offense.

    I think you can use these five concerns--harm, fairness, authority, community, purity--to understand the morality of other cultures, but also of other individuals, and of yourself. Which concern is more important? Which should govern our sense of what is right and wrong in any given situation?
  8. Feb 29, 2008 #7
    Interesting link, Sarah. I loved the illustration of a bunch of Red Sox fans glaring at a Yankee fan.

    I like Pinker but I think he is a specialist in cognitive theory and I think he's overly focusing on that here without really signaling that he is. He sort of alludes to, but I don't think he clearly delineates, between the behavior of morality and the personal obligation of morality that I distinguish above. From other books of his I've read I would suspect that he probably believes that a general behavior of morality in humans is sufficient to convey a personal obligation to behave in the same fashion, which he isn't articulating. I also noticed that he doesn't seem to distinguish between killing and murder.
  9. Feb 29, 2008 #8

    In many situations people can cheat to get ahead -- whether it involves stealing, lying or things of that nature -- they can do this and in many situations know that they can "get away with it" and yet do not act in that way.

    Why? And does this conflict with your last statement as quoted?
  10. Mar 1, 2008 #9
    Human emotions include anger, envy, jealousy...etc.. all of which have very little to do with 'improvement'. Although one could certainly use them to improve oneself, there doesn't seem to be any implicit direction to the emotions. Emotions tend to be more about asserting power.... for good or ill. Improvement is relative.
    we group together because we are social animals. A person left alone on a desert island for too long will suffer mental difficulties due to loneliness. This need for human companionship is not always beneficial. We group together by instinct, because in the past it was has been generally beneficial, even if it is to our detriment sometimes. It really depends on circumstance.
    Most individuals, those not sociopaths, have instincts towards helping others, this is evolved, it has no rational basis, and may or may not benefit the individual. There is no intent to improve. Its simply a matter that in the past, this instinct proved advantageous to survival, so it stayed with us. Improvement is a really misleading word in this context, since advantages in one context may prove to be disadvantages when circumstances change.

    This is clearly false. Leaders do this all the time. Sometimes the group rebels, sometimes not.
    No, it keeps people in line under certain circumstances, but generally only for short periods of time. Many people step out of line regardless of the punishment they may face.
  11. Mar 1, 2008 #10
    Its confused equivocation, based on loosely defined words.

    Two issues are being conflated.

    ''what are the physical requirements of survival'.
    "what are the limits of what one ought to do to survive a given situation."

    By inserting 'ought', a moral justification is implied.

    What one needs to do to survive, really has nothing to do with what one decides one ought to do in that situation. The second is a value judgment.

    Whether there are other people around is irrelevant to morality.

    "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone might be looking."
    H. L. Mencken
  12. Mar 1, 2008 #11
    False dichotomy. The is-ought dichotomy is invalid.

    1. Actions have consequences.
    2. These consequences are within the province of causality, since they are material.
    3. Therefore, the relation between actions and consequences is objective.

    Here is a counter-example to the is-ought dichotomy.

    1. Human beings have a metabolism which requires nutrients to be sustained.
    2. Human beings need to eat and drink in a certain way to survive.
    V. Nutrition is a value.
    O. We ought to eat and drink in a certain way.

    Is transforms to ought quite nicely.
  13. Mar 1, 2008 #12
    Dude, you really ought to think things through before pulling out the name of a rhetorical fallacy from the philosophy entry in the encyclopedia and throwing it into a conversation.

    Morality is not the relationship between actions and consequences. A moral course of action may very well be one that would have no consequences whatsoever were it not pursued. Or on the other hand pursuing a moral course of action may have utterly dire consequences.

    One is not morally obligated to eat and drink. In fact the moral course of action might be the entire opposite. See Gandhi.

    The is-ought dichotomy is completely valid, as I [post=1629197]articulated up above[/post].
  14. Mar 1, 2008 #13
    reply to JoeDawg

    i guess the idea i was going for was that morality is based on the group. yes you could 'get away with it.' but the fact that u might be punished is what keeps you from doing it (for most people). how ever if you were not a member of the group you would have less obligation to stay in line. this happens with American solders occasionally. there is one jerk in the military that thinks America is better then the rest of the world and he treats the people around him like crap. he lies, steels, and, in at least one case, rapes people.

    a person could influence people around him to follow him. but in that case he changes the morality of the group. if the group believes that something is wrong then the group will comply to punish that act. more extreme even if 99% of the group think killing is wrong but none of those people speak to each other then it is possible that the belief of the group is that killing is good.
  15. Mar 1, 2008 #14
    There is a teapot orbiting the earth. The fact that this is true says nothing about whether there should be a teapot orbiting the earth.
    That is the is/ought problem.

    It is not a false dichotomy.
    A teapot in orbit requires gravity to keep it in orbit.
    Gravity must be a certain constant to maintain the teapot orbit.
    Gravity has value.

    But only if the teapot orbiting the earth has value.... infinite regress.

    You can't derive an ought from an is.
  16. Mar 1, 2008 #15
    I don't think this is true. Many people follow authority because they value authority. Others follow because they agree with what the authority says. I'd say that only in extreme cases, where punishment is imminent, or the benefit is small are people really dissuaded by punishment. If it were otherwise capital punishment would eliminate murders. It doesn't.
    Actually being part of a group can also cause a feeling of less obligation. This is the case with mobs and riots. People feel liberated in a crowd.

    I don't follow this. You seem to be contradicting yourself.
  17. Mar 1, 2008 #16
    Perhaps something that is also causing confusion is the distinction between what someone believes it is in their best interest to do and morality. A person might believe that it is in their own best interest to not kill or lie or steal but this is not the same thing as believing one is morally obligated not to do those things.

    But the moral thing to do is not always what is in one's best interest to do.

    An anecdote that is often presented in this sort of discussion is of the Thuggee cult of India, whose members thought it was their moral duty to kill and to steal.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2008
  18. Mar 1, 2008 #17
    As I explained earlier, the is-ought dichotomy is invalid. I even proved it!

    1. Human beings have a metabolism which requires nutrients to be sustained.

    leads to

    2. Human beings need to eat and drink in a certain way to survive.

    leads to

    3. Nutrition is an objective value for survival.

    leads to

    4. We ought to eat and drink in a certain way.

    As we can see, it is easy to transpose a scientific fact into an ought statement. Surely, this cannot be that hard to understand, can it?

    If you still claim that the is-ought dichotomy is valid, you have an enormous burden of proof.

    Values do not depend on context, since they are universal to all human beings living in society.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2008
  19. Mar 1, 2008 #18
    No, you preached it, once again proving you are a randian nought.
  20. Mar 1, 2008 #19
    What an intelligent non-argument. I noticed that you did not attempt to refute my argument. Did you notice that too?

    Does this mean that you concede your position? I think it does.
  21. Mar 1, 2008 #20
    Are you blind? Or just stupid?

    Been a while since I've seen such a lame evasion.

    Can you even read? Read it again if you dare.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2008
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